Yesterday I gave my first lecture of 2019. I've had a long time off from travel, and even this was just an hour and bit away, it still counts. Hotel rooms, supper via delivery guy, room full of people looking at me. The longer I take off from lecturing, and this was the longest time ever, the more nervous I get about the whole thing. But I arrived at the hall, was greeted warmly on a really cold day, and as the hall filled I went about my rituals for calming down and right at the right moment I popped my anti-anxiety.
The audience was receptive and as I got going I realized, again, that I was enjoying being there, enjoying teaching, enjoying the questions that came my way. In a blink of an eye, it was lunch time.After Joe and I had eaten I said to him that I'd like to go to see the gym in the community center that we were in. We headed off and up and arrived there to look around.
It was packed with machinery and I rolled around looking at it. My own gym was having members fill out a form suggesting new machinery or other ways to improve the experience. They had come to me and told me about it in case I knew of other machines that had been made accessible. I thought I might get an idea. There wasn't any, not one, and I was surprised. I spoke to the guy there and asked if this was a city run gym in a community center or if it was like a Planet Fitness or something. He said it was run by the city.
I asked him, then, where the accessible machines were. He said they had one where the seat could be pulled out. It was over near a corner and though it was cool it was hardly enough for someone with a disability to bother. I asked him why there weren't options for people with disabilities, in a taxpayer funded place shouldn't all taxpayers have access.
Now, for those who wish I'd shut up about the gym and going to the gym, here's where the switch happens. The post isn't about the gym but about what he said in response to my question. So what did he say in answer to my question about why there weren't options for disabled people? In a firm tone, "This gym is for the general public."
I stopped still.
He looked back to see me no longer behind him in chatting distance.
"I am a member of the general public," I said.
He looked confused and started talking to me about some other place with the word 'ability' in it's name where I might be able to go.
What part of Community in 'Community Center' did he not understand?
But, I had to get back and go on with my lecture.
He had flat out told me that I don't belong, I am not welcome, I am not one of 'us' ... I am not part of the general public. I am something else that should go somewhere else.
Sometimes ableism and disphobia is so deeply ingrained that people don't even understand the impact of their words. They don't even understand the depth of their prejudice. The can say clearly, 'not you, not here' and still think they offer service to the general public.
There is work to be done.
So much work to be done.